What’s in a name? The effects of sound symbolism and package shape on consumer responses to food products

Anna Fenko, Henriët Lotterman, Mirjam Galetzka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


In the global market, consumers are exposed to multiple brand names in unfamiliar languages. Even meaningless words can trigger certain semantic associations. This phenomenon is known as sound symbolism, i.e., the direct link between a sound and a meaning. Sound symbolism helps consumers to form product expectations based on unfamiliar brand names. Product expectations can be also formed based on various elements of packaging design, including colours, shapes and materials. This study investigated the effects of unfamiliar brand names (“Asahi” vs. “Ramune”), package shapes (round vs. angular) and product types (muesli cookie vs. butter cookie) varied in perceived healthiness (low vs. high) on perceived product healthfulness, product evaluation, taste expectations and purchase intention. General health interest (GHI) was used as the moderating variable. The results showed that package shape and product type significantly influenced the perceived product healthfulness of the two experimental products. Brand name alone did not affect consumer responses. However, the congruent combination of product shape and brand name (round “Ramune” cookie) was preferred to incongruent combinations. Furthermore, the congruent combinations (“Ramune” butter cookie and “Asahi” muesli cookie) were expected to taste better and were more likely to be purchased compared to incongruent combinations. These results suggest that congruency between the type of product, brand name, and package design is important for creating a successful brand strategy. The study also showed that the effects of sound symbolism and congruency on perceived product healthfulness are more pronounced for consumers with low interest in healthy eating. However, further research is needed to generalise our results to other product groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-108
JournalFood quality and preference
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • IR-100003
  • METIS-316212


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